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Could be played with no musical training

The Fooles Troupe 02 Sep 09 - 05:33 PM
Leadfingers 02 Sep 09 - 05:40 PM
Jack Campin 02 Sep 09 - 05:42 PM
Don Firth 02 Sep 09 - 06:06 PM
Leadfingers 02 Sep 09 - 06:11 PM
M.Ted 03 Sep 09 - 12:59 AM
Joe Offer 03 Sep 09 - 01:01 AM
GUEST 03 Sep 09 - 03:46 AM
Leadfingers 03 Sep 09 - 04:30 AM
Geoff the Duck 03 Sep 09 - 04:42 AM
Jack Campin 03 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM
Geoff the Duck 03 Sep 09 - 05:35 AM
Marje 03 Sep 09 - 05:49 AM
Jack Campin 03 Sep 09 - 06:20 AM
Bobert 03 Sep 09 - 07:32 AM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Sep 09 - 08:12 AM
Dave Roberts 03 Sep 09 - 08:20 AM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Sep 09 - 08:22 AM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Sep 09 - 08:25 AM
Phil Edwards 03 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM
Jack Campin 03 Sep 09 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Sep 09 - 09:50 AM
M.Ted 03 Sep 09 - 11:23 AM
Songbob 03 Sep 09 - 01:11 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Sep 09 - 01:16 PM
John P 03 Sep 09 - 02:30 PM
Don Firth 03 Sep 09 - 02:44 PM
autoharpbob 03 Sep 09 - 02:47 PM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler 03 Sep 09 - 03:33 PM
Tim Leaning 03 Sep 09 - 05:37 PM
Jack Campin 03 Sep 09 - 07:24 PM
Joe Offer 03 Sep 09 - 07:59 PM
Tattie Bogle 03 Sep 09 - 08:23 PM
Bluegrassman 03 Sep 09 - 08:23 PM
Don Firth 03 Sep 09 - 08:33 PM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Sep 09 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Sep 09 - 10:44 AM
John P 04 Sep 09 - 12:19 PM
Songbob 04 Sep 09 - 01:07 PM
Alice 04 Sep 09 - 01:13 PM
Alice 04 Sep 09 - 01:14 PM
Don Firth 04 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM
Jane of' ull 04 Sep 09 - 03:47 PM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Sep 09 - 06:49 PM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Sep 09 - 09:43 PM
Jack Campin 05 Sep 09 - 06:12 AM
Dave Roberts 05 Sep 09 - 06:30 AM
Penny S. 06 Sep 09 - 04:46 AM
Tradsinger 06 Sep 09 - 05:33 AM
autoharpbob 06 Sep 09 - 06:43 AM
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Subject: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 05:33 PM

This was triggered by a thread that talked about certain instruments

"the appeal being that they could be played with no musical training-- "

Gaaahhhh - why do those who know nothing think that they are so good that.... aaaagghhhhh...


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 05:40 PM

Robin ! I know a number of very competent performers on a variety of instruments who have never suffered the Strait Jacket of Formal Musical training !


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 05:42 PM

Is that the sound of a kazoo I hear?


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 06:06 PM

There is a fair number of very fine musicians out there who have had no "formal training." But they have had training.

They have trained themselves.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Sep 09 - 06:11 PM

Good Example is Johnny Dodds , New Orleans Clarinettist , who was never taught that it was impossible to do a perfect slur through four (I THNK) Octaves ! so he DID , as a break on 'Joe Turner Blues in 1927


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 12:59 AM

That having been my comment, I will endeavor--well, I'll say something, anyway--

There are many in this world who are oblivious to the idea that achievement requires effort.

They think that people fortunes fall out of the sky, and that you just have be in the right place at the right time. They believe that all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and you're the next Shakespeare, that anyone can be a movie star, and that people just pick up instruments and play them--and so they keep looking for an instrument that requires no practice, no discipline, and no particular talent.

I know these people are out there, because I've had many of them come to me for music lessons. They tend to show up with either really cheap or really expensive instruments, they want to "learn guitar in one week", or day, or in their sleep, and they never practice.

Nowadays, they buy casio keyboards and Band-ia-a-Box, go online, or just play "Guitar Hero", but in the golden ages past, they bought ukelins and autoharps and fretless zithers from travelling salesman, fiddled with them for a couple days, and then stuck them under the bed.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 01:01 AM

Hey, I want to see some respect here. The kazoo is MY instrument...


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 03:46 AM

Gaaahhhh - why do those
who know nothing
chance that by wearing
ribbons and bells

and prancing on their
toes...someone will
mistake that for a dance?

aaaagghhhhh...
    Please note that anonymous posting is no longer allowed at Mudcat. Use a consistent name [in the 'from' box] when you post, or your messages risk being deleted.
    Thanks.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 04:30 AM

M.Ted = Thats fair enough ! We ALL know tho odd Joe like that , as we ALL know the guys who have worked out what they want to play , without any FORMAL instruction .
Its the Elderly Lady , got off the train at Grand Central Station and asked how to get to Carnegie Hall .


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 04:42 AM

Let me add my voice of outrage to Joe's and extol the virtue of the noble kazoo.
Let's face it, without musical training it is just a lump of silent metal. It is the musicality and ear of the virtuoso which turns it into a magical experience, soaring and swooping through the whole vocal range of the performer. As for ensemble work, the key is responding to the subtleties of your fellow musicians.

Quack!
Geoff the Duck.
Selby Kazoo Orchestra / Windy Bottom Kazoo Ensemble.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 05:18 AM

The one that amazes me is the traditions where people learn the violin with no teacher. In former times, this was the norm in Shetland and Transylvania that I know of, and presumably other places in between: you'd just watch, practice at home (or up a remote hill in a barn) and join in when you could. In Shetland, this led to a distinctive style of bowing, since there weren't many players and once you got the basic idea you'd be playing along with them for life. In Transylvania (much larger place with musicians much more mobile) it led to utter anarchy with many different styles coexisting.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 05:35 AM

Anarchy? Maybe -I don't know anything about Transylvania.
But did it work?

Over the years, I have seen many "classically trained" violinists who just do not know where to start with folk music unless they have dots in front of them. This is because they have never learned to listen and watch what other players do, only to listen for where their dots fall within the score.

Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Marje
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 05:49 AM

There can be a big difference between "musical training" and making an effort to learn to play (or sing) well. Many people don't have formal training but learn a lot from instruction books and from listening to recordings. They also work their apprenticeships by playing or singing with others and talking to them about their techniques, tunings etc. Recording yourself playing or singing and listening to the playback can be quite salutory, and of course practice is crucial. One-to-one formal tuition can be helpful too, and it rarely does any harm, but it doesn't guarantee success - it needs to be combined with some of the things listed above.

There are, on the other hand, lazy musicians/singers who try to get by without doing any of the above, and we all know how they sound. I think, as has been implied above, that TV talent shows are adding to the problems, as many young people seem to believe that the important thing is to have bags of confidence, a good "image", and to reallyreallyreally WANT to be successful, to WANT it more than anything in the world, etc, etc. There's also the sloppy "good enough for folk" attitude, which has been discussed elsewhere.

But there are many respected players or singers (and we all know some of them too)who are largely or entirely self-taught. They are the ones who have worked hard and learned to use their instrument or voice to the best of their ability. It's not about how you learn, it's about whether you make the effort to learn at all.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 06:20 AM

I don't know anything about Transylvania.
But did it work?


Yes. Look at the Romania/Hungary travelogue from last year on my website - I have some links from there to Transylvanian fiddling samples (though I was more interested in whistle). Or just search "Zerkula Janos" on YouTube.

In many places there has been a long tradition of blind fiddlers. Katherine Campbell's "The Fiddle in Scottish Culture" has a chapter about them in Scotland. Since a blind fiddler can't even watch what the other guy's fingers are doing, they end up even more idiosyncratic. The blind fiddler "Financ" (Zoltan Antal) from Gyimes has a left hand position like no other I've seen, much higher up than usual and occasionally curling his thumb round to stop a B drone on the G string. You should be able to see that on some the video on the web.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Bobert
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 07:32 AM

The entire concept behinf Orff music is teaching kids to play with little or no musical training... The instruments, Xylophone, Metallophones, Glockenspeils can be manipulated so there are really no wrong notes... Throw in the unpitched percussion and all it takes to play them (and sound good) is some level of basic rhytum...

B~


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:12 AM

Now look what I started... I knew it would all end in tears... :-P


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:20 AM

I once went into a music shop in Crewe and asked if they had any kazoos. I would have got a better reaction if I'd offered to burn down the shop.

'The kazoo.' said the shop owner disdainfully, 'is NOT a musical instrument'.

It is, of course, its main appeal being that it can be played with no musical training.

Dave Roberts
Bob Webb Kazoo Orchestra


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:22 AM

QUITE
and all it takes to play them (and sound good) is some level of basic rhythm
UNQUOTE

... and as someone who had friends whose children learned music that way ... PRACTICE... :-P


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:25 AM

Haha Dave... crossposted! :-)


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM

I'd like to turn it round and ask what instruments can't be played without any musical training. I was playing tunes on the recorder by ear before I ever learned to read dots; I can still pick out a tune by ear as quickly as I can sight-read (i.e. not very quickly). My Dad used to play piano, and he never learned to read dots (although he could sight-read solfa). How he learned the left-hand parts I'll never know. I find the idea of being a self-taught guitarist equally mindboggling, but people do do it - one of the best guitarists I know plays chords with names like "D with an extra bit".

So what instrument is there that's so complex and counter-intuitive that no untaught outsider could ever learn to find their way around it? Lute? Pipe organ? Bandoneon?


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 09:05 AM

The voice, if you want to sound like an opera singer.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 09:50 AM

This argument could go on forever, because everyone has a different definition of 'training.'

At one extreme, training could be defined as learning from a music teacher with a music degee. At the other extreme, merely hearing someone hum, whistle or sing a tune counts as training.

I learned about that second def. in a Chinese restaurant. There, members of the staff, many newly-arrived in the U.S., sang 'Happy Birthday' to a baby girl. It was awful. (It was also charming.) They knew the words, but some had never internalized the intervals in do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.

That made me realize that Westerners are all trained to duplicate certain intervals.   Even those who have never heard The Sound of Music.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: M.Ted
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 11:23 AM

Before you decided what "training" is, you have to decide what "playing" consists of--if you define playing as simply banging out a melody on the idiophone of your choice, that doesn't require much help, but if you define "playing" as something like this Jascha Heifetz plays Paganini Caprice No. 24, you're probably going to need all the help you can get--


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Songbob
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 01:11 PM

I have had one "official" (i.e., paid-for) music lesson in my life. But I used to live near Dupont Circle, in 1966-1967. During the summer season (whenever it was warm enough and not raining, that is, no matter the month) there were always little knots of people gathered here and there on the grass, playing music. Usually whatever was going around in "folk circles," but that means it was pretty eclectic. And anyone could sit down in the circle, open an instrument case, and play along as best he/she could. And the good thing was, when the song was finished, you could ask, "Hey, what was that where you moved that D chord up the neck?" and get the answer, "Oh, well, at the 7th fret, it's a G chord, and up at the 9th, you get an A. You have to watch the bass strings, but it works." Bingo! Instant lesson in chord inversion (or alternate positions, whatever you want to call it).

I must have had as many as three or four such lessons every night, for two summers (by 1968, it had gotten pretty hairy there, and it's hard to play music while breathing tear gas). How many lessons is that? Add to it places like the Alexandria Folklore Center, in operation at the time, where similar learning sessions could be carried out, and I had a bachelors/masters/doctorate season in two years.

In that time, I took up banjo, mandolin, autoharp, and fiddle, plus making much improvement on guitar and even harmonica. I had my first public performances then, which is a totally different kind of learning experience, but a valuable one. I wrote my first Gawd-awful songs, too, just to show that that time wasn't a total plus.

So am I a trained musician?

Damned right I am.


Bob


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 01:16 PM

M.Ted - I take the point, but even virtuosi aren't all trained. I remember John Peel once playing a rather crude bit of punk and commenting, "You're probably thinking that guitarist sounds like he lost two fingers in a gypsy caravan fire". Then, of course, he played something by Django.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: John P
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 02:30 PM

Playing the kazoo requires being able to sing in tune. I've been playing music professionally for 40 years and have never been able to play the kazoo competently.

I think this thread is really about non-musicians who want an instrument that they can play with no effort, not about musicians who haven't had any formal training. There are a few instruments that can be played fairly easily by non-musicians (Musicmaker, lap dulcimer, kazoo, even the harp), but they still require a decent sense of rhythm and a sense of the melody as whole instead of a bunch of disconnected notes. Someone who doesn't have those things won't even be able to make the mindless instruments sound good. So maybe they aren't entirely non-musicians??

Then there are the fairly good musicians who don't have any self-critical facility. They think that because the are a Musician, they can obviously play music without practicing endlessly. I'd almost rather hear a non-musician banging on a drum; someone who obviously could be very good but doesn't know they're not is really sad.

Self-taught musicians are, if they are any good, equally able as highly trained players. Training comes in many forms. Playing along with others can be a great music school.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 02:44 PM

Andrés Segovia's father was a musician; a church organist. At the age of six, Andrés wanted to become a musician:   a guitarist. His father said, "No!" The guitar was the instrument of the gypsies and the lower classes. Not a decent instrument for his son to play, and he didn't want him to be associating with people like that. Violin, piano, fine. But the guitar? No! This, even though there were a number of respected guitarists he apparently wasn't aware of:   Fernando Sor, Francisco Tàrrega, Carulli, Aguado;   Franz Schubert played the guitar, although, as far as I know, he didn't compose for it, Beethoven referred to the guitar as "an orchestra in miniature". . . .

This turned out to be a bit counterproductive for Andrés' father. Young Andrés took to hanging around where the gypsies hung out, listening to them play flamenco and other stuff on their guitars, and saying, "How do you do that? Show me."

With his father's attitude as it was, I don't know how he managed to get his hands on a guitar so he could practice, but he did, and he also managed to get a copy of Dionisio Aguado's Escuela de Guitarra, a guitar tutor published in 1825 (still in print today and still a very good technique book), and taught himself out of that, supplemented by Fernando Sor's collection of 120 graded studies. He made sufficient progress in his own self-instruction that he played a recital at the age of 15, which got him a scholarship to the University of Madrid school of music. There, he learned music theory and all the other stuff.

But—the key to the whole thing is a) get an idea of how to proceed either from a few lessons to begin with, or a good technique book (which you read carefully), then b) place seat of pants on seat of chair, pick up guitar (or whatever musical instrument you chose), and (Beware! Dirty word!!) practice, practice, practice!

I have had formal training, both singing and classic guitar lessons, plus some conservatory training. But my first "instruction" on the guitar consisted of Claire, my lady friend at the time, showing me how to finger G, C, and D7 on the guitar, and a few months later, Walt Robertson teaching me a bunch of picking patterns and bass runs. It was later that I started taking weekly lessons that I paid for. Was what Claire and Walt showed me "training?"

I knew a guy when I was at the University of Washington who decided he was going to be a poet. He adopted the requisite scarf and beret (his idea of what it took to be a poet), wandered around proclaiming that he was a poet. He actually wrote a little doggerel from time to time, but it was really bad stuff. Nobody else referred to him as a poet, except with a snicker.

How many people do you know who tell you, "I'm a songwriter," but their songs really deserve a quick trip to the nearest septic tank?

Being a poet or a musician or a brain surgeon requires a bit more than just calling yourself one.

I had a friend who was an artist. Really good. When people asked him what he did, he said, "I'm a painter." People would then say, "Oh, you're an artist?" Ric would respond, "Well, I paint pictures. Whether or not I am an 'artist' is not for me to say. That's for others to decide."

I'd say that Ric know where his towel was.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: autoharpbob
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 02:47 PM

How did I guess that the autoharp would figure in this thread? Please disabuse yourself of the stereotype that all one has to do is strum this in time and press the chord buttons - actually that is quite difficult itself and requires some musical ability whether trained or not. But masters of this instrument do so much more than that. It is an instrument that it is easy to play at a mediocre level - very hard to play well. And of course training will help that - see the UK Autoharp Association for details of such training.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 03:33 PM

Don't show disrespect for those who buy expensive instruments they can't play and stick them under the bed! They are the thoughtful ones who have children who find it after Daddy's handed in his dinner pail and give it to Oxfam. This keeps down the cost of instruments for the rest of us.
I see several comments about the kazoo, but no-one has even mentioned the Swanee Whistle (as played on at least one of Mr Armstrong's records) without which the former cannot be played seriously. The good Samantha will attest to this.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 05:37 PM

Ok so what is meant by musical training?
Some of the thread could be read to mean all trained violinists should sound the same ?
Cant be what yo meant surely.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 07:24 PM

The swannee whistle, along with the "Langley" English ocarina, are a different kind of instrument. They're both designed so that nobody can play them well. I presume the attraction of that to a certain kind of beginner is that they know they'll never have any competition to look up to.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 07:59 PM

Autoharpbob says, and I applaud him for this:
    Please disabuse yourself of the stereotype that all one has to do is strum this in time and press the chord buttons


The Autoharp is one instrument that is played badly more often than not. Nothing worse than trying to sing when somebody is playing an out-of-tune Autoharp badly.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:23 PM

12 years of training for this!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESBmqCEz69w


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Bluegrassman
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:23 PM

Dave went to a shop down in Crewe
Asked the man "have you got a kazoo"
The man said "son don't be absurd
"That's the daftest thing that I've heard"
He took Dave round the back
And he gave him a smack
Poor David's request was denied

Dave said to the man, "yes I know"
But my musical skills are quite low
I just want to sing and to play with a thing
Please help me, please do what you can
The man knew what to do
He'd met quite a few
So he promptly sold Dave a Bodhran


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 08:33 PM

The original idea of the autoharp (the "chord-zither"), or so I have been told, was to develop an instrument that teachers, camp counselors, Sunday school teachers who were presumed to be non-musicians—or, for that matter, pianists who might not have a piano available, could strum chords for leading group singing. An instrument that, in a short period of time and with minimum effort, they could learn to play adequately for the purpose.

Then, the inevitable happens: someone develops such an instrument, then someone else comes along (such as the Stoneman family, or Maybelle Carter) and turns the bloody thing into a virtuoso instrument.

Well, of course, there is always the shaky egg. But you really should have some sense of rhythm. . . .

Don Firth

P. S. Bongos? Real big in the Sixties. I think about half the world's population who had no sense of rhythm had a set of these mass-torture devices.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 03:20 AM

Don, the problem is that if someone pulls out a set of bongos (to use your example), or any other instrument, that many people (often those who cannot play ANY instrument themselves) will immediately decry the ability of such a person... without ANY attempt to listen to what they do... been there, done that, got sick of being put down by wankers the rude and ignorant...

"I'd like to turn it round and ask what instruments can't be played without any musical training. I was playing tunes on the recorder by ear " etc ...

... practice, practice, practice ... is INDEED training - of oneself BY oneself :-)


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 10:44 AM

I agree with you, Foolestroupe.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: John P
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 12:19 PM

On the other hand, maybe we should look at mindless instruments in the hands of the untrained as a gateway drug. Some of them will move on to becoming musicians.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Songbob
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 01:07 PM

"The original idea of the autoharp (the "chord-zither"), or so I have been told, was to develop an instrument that [ ] non-musicians [ ] could strum chords for leading group singing."

Actually, as I understand it, it was developed partly for that (after all, it was a selling point, so why not make the claim?), but as well for teaching a new system for writing music. Or at least, Mr. Zimmerman hoped that this new system would catch on. It involved numbers instead of letters, and was intended to make it possible to write without the musical staves (treble clef, bass cleff, etc.). The system was a disaster, and never adopted by more than a handful of hopeful dreamers who couldn't memorize "Every Good Boy Does Fine" and "FACE."

Early autoharps have a number as well as a letter on the chord bars and the chart that sits under the strings. Those numbers were for use in the music-writing/reading scheme that Zimmerman proposed.

Thank God he didn't succeed with the scheme, but luckily, his chord-harp did succeed in its other feature -- an easy-to-use accompaniment instrument. I'm sure countless numbers of people learned a lot about music through use of the autoharp.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Alice
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 01:13 PM

Dave Roberts, I got the same reaction when I went into a local musical instrument store and asked if they had penny whistles. (clerk looked down his nose and said, that's a toy, not an instrument) It's the local snooty guitar and mandolin shop.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Alice
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 01:14 PM

I repeat what others have said, self training IS musical training.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 02:01 PM

Robin, my comments above are not just a gratuitous put-down of bongo players, they're based on bitter experience.

In the early Sixties, one of the coffeehouses I played in regularly on weekends was Pamir House (started out to be an Indian restaurant, but it fizzled, so the adaptable owner decided to hire a few folk singers and turn it into a coffeehouse). It was a very enjoyable place to sing, because Mr. Timmons, the owner, hired two or three singers to sing on weekends (and he payed regularly and reasonably well). We would sometimes sing one at a time, but generally all two or three, or sometimes four of us would be up in front at the same time, swapping songs, bantering back and forth, singing solos or impromptu duets or ensembles. Very informal; we were having fun and and the audiences loved it. Like a party.

But some people were not aware that we had been auditioned and hired by Timmons, we hadn't just wandered in off the street. Thinking that it was some kind of "free for all," they would sometimes join in—often with musically disastrous results.

Since the two Mikes, Judy, Jerry, Jim, Alice, Sue, me, et al, accompanied ourselves on guitars of various sizes, shapes, and qualities, with the occasional 5-string banjo in evidence, those who wanted to participate (uninvited by either us or the management) would come in most often with a set of bongos—and instrument that, in addition to being inexpensive, they assumed didn't require talent or ability to be able to play. All one had to do, they seemed to think, was just bang on the things.

Generally, once Timmons (back in the kitchen) became aware of the cacophonous arrhythmia, he would come out and invite the individual to kindly knock it off.

But often, before Mr. Timmons had a chance to come out and ask the interloper to stuff a sock in it, I would have bongo players attempting to provide a sort of palsied pseudo-Caribbean rhythm, not only to such songs as The Sloop John B., but to Greensleeves, The Unquiet Grave, Edward, or Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies.

I have heard bongos, bodhrans, and other percussion instruments played with a great degree of taste and skill and with very good effect. But unfortunately, many people seem to assume that if you can pound on a table-top, you can automatically play such instruments like a virtuoso.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jane of' ull
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 03:47 PM

I come from that self-taught tradition otherwise known as poverty! My parents wouldn't have been able to afford music lessons, but I'm glad for that as I've always played mainly by ear and hated following the dots. I'll never be a slave to the stave!


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 06:49 PM

I just love stories like that Don! :-0


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Sep 09 - 09:43 PM

"never be a slave to the stave"

Ah - all the 30s 'big bands' and many jazz bands then and now supply part music - you are EXPECTED to be able to play what the COMPOSER/ARRANGER set out...

Only 'soloists' are allowed the 'luxury' of 'making it up as they go along'...

viz...

QUOTE
because the are a Musician, they can obviously play music without practising endlessly
UNQUOTE

I call these 'artists' "B-graders" - no matter how good they THINK they are, they can never understand WHY they never seem to improve - of course that is being kind and assuming they can tell the difference...

The WHOLE POINT of the original development of various forms of music notation was to PRESERVE good music, intended to be an AID TO MEMORY, not some slavish imprisonment of 'artistic taste'... I personally love the guide in front of me (and as a pipe organ and choir/ensemble muso, I can read full 'conductor score' - with multiple simultaneous parts), as I can use that as a starting point. I love those 'fake books' with the tune and chord structure - I can start playing immediately (tunes I have NEVER heard before take a few minutes to get up to speed) without trying to remember millions of tunes...

Of course if someone can only 'play by ear', I still respect them (based on their output) - I just think it sad that they are unnecessarily limiting their potential capabilities...


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 06:12 AM

There is a strange fetish in the folk/trad scene about not being able to read music.

I can think of one world-famous performer who publicly claims not to be able to read music but has been spotted doing it at home.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Dave Roberts
Date: 05 Sep 09 - 06:30 AM

Bluegrassman - that's excellent!

Actually we were thinking of using a bodhran in the act but, unfortunately (or not, according to point of view), the bodhran player (Bob Webb's partner Gilly) managed to punch a hole in the thing thus scuttling the project.

Currently I'm learning to play the ukulele, another 'comedy' instrument but, in the right hands, capable of making music of great beauty and refinement.

Something, alas, I don't think can be said of the poor old kazoo.


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Penny S.
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 04:46 AM

I think I started this ball rolling. I would not call myself a musician, but I do know some stuff about music, and can generally hear what chords are required in a song, or work it out on paper if required.

I lost the practice habit when neighbours started to go on about interflats noise, and a child was put in the spare bedroom next to mine, which was the only room without a sound channel to other properties. This will soon be rectified, and the keyboard, guitar and thumb piano come back into use.

But I also have a physical problem. I get to a certain level, and then practice fails. It's difficult to describe what I mean, the simplest way is to call it clumsiness. I just hit a wall, and however much I do, I don't improve. I get worse. I know I could not do the autoharp playing that others do, but I could use it to augment my singing, and get to use chords I can't manage on the guitar.

As for the guitar, there was an odd phenomenon with that. After learning some Spanish techniques with the right hand, I discovered that that hand developed ways of playing without my consciousness interfering, in just the way that the non-musical expect to be able to play, described above. Sounded good. I need to practice again to get back to that. Unfortunately, my left hand has no such abilities, and once removed from the key of G, which is now too high for my voice, is completely at sea. It is very very frustrating, and not solvable. There is this clumsy business at work.

Penny


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: Tradsinger
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 05:33 AM

This thread has wandered a little from musical 'training' to the ability to read music, so here's my fourpennyworth.

It used to be considered by some people in England that the ability to read music was a hindrance to being able to play folk music properly, and it is true that there were and are some musicians who played extremely well without being able to read the dots. It is also true that there are 'trained' musicians who cannot play without the dots in front of them. It is equally true that there were and are lots of 'trained' musicians who are perfectly at home in the folk idiom.

However, the current breed of top young(ish) folk musicians (e.g. Tim Van Eyken, Jon Spiers, the Askew Sisters, Andy Cutting etc, etc) all know loads about the theory of music and are able to put this into practise to add value to their performances.

The ability to understand how music works, i.e. intervals, scales, chords, is akin to knowing the grammar of a language.   You don't need to know grammar to speak a foreign language but you will speak it infinitely better if you do. You don't need to read and understand music to play but it will improve your musicality if you can. If you can then make the leap from the theory to the sound, even better. It is one thing to know what a minor 7th chord or a flatted 7th looks like, but if you know what it sounds like and you can recognise it and play it, then you've cracked it.

Over the years, I have tried to understand musical 'grammar' and it makes sense. When one of the groups I am in is rehearsing, it is musical shorthand to say 'sing a fifth above me' or 'play a relative minor chord'. If you try to express these ideas without the knowledge of musical grammar, you run into difficulties or even play or sing the wrong notes, or at least notes or chords which are less effective.

So my point is that musical training, by which I don't mean just practising your instrument, but getting to grips with the musicality of it as well, will enhance your playing and make it easier for you to play along with others.

And it's not rocket science.

I rest my case.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: Could be played with no musical training
From: autoharpbob
Date: 06 Sep 09 - 06:43 AM

The autoharp was originally designed as stated, to be easily played, and yes, Gustav was kind of obsessed with his new notation system. But the autoharp has developed, thanks to players like Bryan Bowers, in a similar way to how the harmonica came into its own with Larry Adler. More and more people are becoming aware of the possibilities of the instrument and how much can be achieved withi its limitations. And I doubt there is another intsrument which can train the performer in chord structure as effectively. If you move away from the standard chromatic autoharp into the diatonic possibilities, you can only play the chords you put on the instrument - so you have to work out what chords you want, what notes go into those chords, and what notes you will need to tune the 37 provided strings to in order to play those chords. I agree Tradsinger that knowing this grammar is a big advantage, and is almost indispensable if you want to make progress on the autoharp.

Penny, I played guitar - badly - for forty years, just strumming with a few basic pick patterns. Then 15 years ago I had a breakdown, from teaching. I played nothing for five years, then when I came back to it I found I had developed arthritis and could no longer hold down a chord. Five years ago I found the autoharp. Now I hold down a chord with one finger, and use the picking patterns that I still have in my right hand to play the harp. I am much more musical on the autoharp than I ever was on the guitar. The way you describe how your right hand moved "without your consciousness interfering" is exactly right. You just sing with your fingers. The great thing about the autoharp is that if you do this when a button is pushed, you are bound to hit notes that are in the right chord. And the bit about the harp being in tune Joe - is of course a given. How easy is it to sing with someone playing a guitar out of tune? But most top-range autoharps now have fine tuners and they probably are more in tune than most guitars - and stay that way longer!


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